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Historic Evacuation
Cover Stories Series 2011> Historic Evacuation
UPDATED: March 6, 2011 NO. 10 MARCH 10, 2011
An Unprecedented Mission

From the end of February to early March, China pulled out 35,860 nationals trapped in violent Libya, with the help of diplomatic resources and all means of transportation. The largest scale evacuation around the globe since the end of the Cold War was rapidly accomplished.

Charter flights, loaded with food and medical supplies, shuttled back and forth over a distance of thousands of kilometers. Chinese military transports brought more nationals home or took them temporarily to third countries. Hundreds of buses drove back and forth across the border between Egypt and Libya. Vessels from China's major shipping companies, as well as Greek vessels, braved rough seas and rescued those stuck amidst the flaring violence. A Chinese navy frigate, Xuzhou, deployed off the Somali coast as part of the seventh anti-piracy task force, steamed to the waters off Libya, providing support and protection for the evacuation mission.

China was among the first group of nations to evacuate its nationals from Libya and it evacuated an overwhelming number of citizens in a short time period, assuring they were safe and sound. The efforts demonstrated effective mobilization and coordination by the Central Government and related ministries and departments. It testified to the importance the nation attaches to the safety and interests of all Chinese nationals, at home or overseas.

Since the emergency happened in faraway North Africa, the operation could not take place without the assistance of neighboring countries. The support of other countries fully reflects the spirit of international cooperation. We appreciate the warm and considerable help and support from nations and people involved. Among the Chinese evacuees who landed on Crete after a cross-Mediterranean trip from Libya, "Efharisto," Greek for "thank you," became the most popular native word they were keen to learn. That is what all Chinese people feel and want to express to those who extended a helping hand in times of adversity.

During the past decades, Chinese people have stepped beyond their borders, either to study, work, or travel. Chinese citizens have also entered some conflict-prone areas, either as employees of corporations or as entrepreneurs to open new frontiers. There they cannot avoid physical or security threats such as crime, terrorism and fallout from internal conflicts. Overseas evacuation thus may become more frequent in these places when violent uprisings cause Chinese interests to come under attack and Chinese nationals are threatened. As a result, consular protection and safeguarding nationals' interests overseas are becoming an even more pressing task for the government and, in particular, its embassies. The unprecedented Libyan evacuation surely provides a valuable experience.

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